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Cisco suggests multi-SaaS integration and a hypervisor alternative as the path to happy hybrid clouds

Also tries to bust blades out of the box with new UCS-X series

Cisco has advanced an alternative vision for running hybrid clouds – but you’ll need Cisco hardware to make it happen.

Most hybrid clouds today assume you’ll run the same compute, networking, and storage abstractions both on-prem and in the public clouds you choose to adopt.

Cisco’s play is to let you pick and choose different tools but use one tool to manage them all.

That tool is Cisco’s Intersight SaaS management platform , which can now integrate with other SaaS products and use their functions as you desire. Cisco’s head of strategy for cloud and compute, DD Dasgupta, said that the company has already integrated Hashicorp’s Terraform infrastructure-as-code tool and Turbonomic’s application resource management wares with Intersight, with single sign-on offered to all.

Intersight can then drive on-prem or cloud infrastructure, or both in a hybrid cloud, with the new Intersight Cloud Orchestrator.

Cisco reckons this represents the best of both blade servers and rack-mounted kit

Dasgupta contrasted this arrangement with arguably the most popular hybrid cloud framework – VMware’s Cloud Foundation - by saying “If you force a customer to use a tool, you are committed to the weakest link.” Cisco thinks allowing users to wield their preferred SaaS tools will deliver a better experience and outcomes.

Another new trick is the Intersight Workload Engine, which Dasgupta described as analogous to a hypervisor in that it abstracts hardware, but different to a hypervisor because it can define infrastructure to handle workloads packaged as VMs, containers, serverless code or running on bare metal.

“Today, running those four types of workloads means working with four different vendors,” Dasgputa said. “IWE is about making that one vendor.”

Cisco also has a new Service Mesh Manager for Kubernetes. Dasgupta acknowledged that the likes of Istio offer hybrid Kubernetes but reckons that Cisco’s networking smarts mean it can do better connecting multiple clusters running in different places.

Interested? Curb your enthusiasm unless you run Cisco hardware, because Intersight Workload Engine only applies to Hyperflex for now.

But Cisco has also created a new type of UCS server to be better at handling the four workload types it thinks users will run.

The new UCS-X series servers come in blade form factor and lives inside a dedicated chassis. But the servers’ memory, CPU and GPU can all be defined as a single pool of resources and shared out to different workloads.

Cisco reckons this represents the best of both blade servers and rack-mounted kit, even though abstraction is only possible within a single chassis. The X-Series also requires Cisco Intersight to make this happen, so Switchzilla’s subscription plans are required to make it all work.

The new hybrid cloud vision means Cisco has also baked its AppDynamics application performance management software and ThousandEyes security observability package into more of its switches, and the latter into SD-WAN. The thinking here is that hybrid clouds are complex and need more observability of what might be making an application misbehave.

Cisco’s approach is interesting, both technically and because it’s selling this vision only to those that buy into a broad stack of Cisco hardware, software, and SaaS. Dasgupta told The Register that the networking giant thinks the $6bn/year rack server market is ripe for its challenge.

Cisco also says it has 55,000 UCS customers. By contrast, VMware says it has hundreds of thousands of vSphere customers and over 4,000 public clouds that run its stuff and are ready to use as hybrid cloud targets.

However, Cisco seldom makes a move unless it is confident the result will be a $5 billion-dollar businesses.

Which means the hybrid cloud and container markets are now even more interesting and contested! ®

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